Employers are increasingly valuing skills and experience over a discredited university degree

Roslyn KuninI have been running a professional consulting business for over 30 years. Over this period, it has provided good paid work for the great people working with me. When bringing these people on, I have never asked whether they had a university degree. Many applicants volunteer their educational credentials and are surprised I do not ask what subject they got their degree in or where they obtained it.

Instead, I ask what they can do and what they have done. My business usually involves research, number crunching, interviewing, meeting deadlines and working as a team. If they can do those things, it does not matter what, if any, degrees they have. If they can’t, all the educational qualifications that they produce will not convince me to hire them.

Other employers, including big ones like Google, Walmart and several U.S. states, are increasing the number of jobs that do not require a university degree. While there will always be some positions that require post-secondary training – medicine and some STEM jobs come to mind – employers are becoming increasingly aware that a general degree adds little or nothing to the ability to perform many jobs.


In the past, a degree served as a filtering tool for businesses and government agencies to handle the vast pool of applicants for each job opening. Now, the challenge is finding enough capable people to fill vacant jobs. Employers need to attract rather than screen. The only requirement is that the applicant can do the work, with a preference for those whose previous experience evidentially showcases their ability.

The no-degree trend is good news for the roughly three-quarters of the Canadian population that does not have a degree. It is also good news for those entering the labour market who are not keen on spending another four years in education without earning an income while also accruing significant debt.

The prospect of debt is not the sole factor altering the perception of college. The view of university as a period of fun and partying before entering the workforce has significantly shifted. Rather than being bastions of free thought and exploration of diverse ideas, many campuses today are perceived as overly constrained by political correctness, where both students and faculty must be exceedingly cautious about their actions, speech, and written words. Professors being dismissed for comments that many would consider harmless is not uncommon. Furthermore, being a white male may present its own set of challenges in this environment.

Given that holding a BA degree does not ensure a good or even any job, the question arises: how do you get work?

The first step is to accept any available position, including entry-level service roles. This kind of work experience demonstrates that you can show up on time, do what is needed and get along with others.

The second step is to acquire some skills, which can be learned on the job or online. Learning on your own demonstrates initiative and persistence, the kind of qualities that employers want. While certain professions, especially in the STEM fields, require post-secondary education, the training doesn’t always need to include full-time attendance on campus. Even in fields like medicine and health, sites like NextgenU offer online, certified courses accessible from anywhere with an internet connection, allowing for more flexible learning opportunities.

The third step involves embracing an entrepreneurial mindset by asking: What good or service can I offer that someone is willing and able to pay for? This critical question must be asked and answered by anyone looking for a job. Employers recruit and compensate employees based on their contribution to the company’s success.

Before approaching a company, research what products or services they offer and identify their potential needs for production and sales. Then determine how you, your skills and experience can help them succeed. When an interviewer asks why you should be hired, the response shouldn’t be ‘because I need the job.’ Instead, emphasize how you can assist the company in solving its problems.

The entrepreneurial question is not only effective when seeking employment but also if you’re contemplating self-employment or launching your own business. If you can efficiently offer a valuable good or service, why not present it directly to consumers? And if you are the boss, you will definitely not need any superfluous credentials.

Dr. Roslyn Kunin is a Troy Media columnist, public speaker and consulting economist.

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